Which Farm Animals Did Old McDonald Have?

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

One of the most perpetually enchanting and traditional children’s songs is Old MacDonald Had a Farm. It follows the story of an old farmer, MacDonald, who had a farm where he kept some animals. The song goes in a beautiful rhythm while changing the animal’s name in every verse and its sound.

What is incredibly cool about this song is that it goes in a backward, cumulative way. As every verse introduces the name and sound of a new animal from Old MacDonald’s farm, all the previously mentioned animals, along with their sounds, are repeated. That is super cool when trying to sing it out.

This made the song so successful that it was remade in many different languages.

So, if the song is intended to teach children about animals and their sounds, we at learningmole.com are going to take that approach to a brand new level. We are going to demonstrate, in a lot more detail, those animals on Old MacDonald’s farm.

Most of the animals Old MacDonald had in his harm are domestic animals or livestock. He keeps them to provide him with food such as milk, meat, wool, and eggs. Old MacDonald can be the milk to make many other things like cheese, butter, yoghurt, ghee, and cream. Likewise, wool can be used to make winter clothes.

Old MacDonald can also use some of his farm animals to transport heavy things from one place to another. The horse, for instance, is a riding animal. Besides, it can be used to move a tractor. A tractor is a vehicle that is used to plough the soil and do other tasks such as harrowing and tilling. These are activities related to preparing the soil for planting crops.

Old MacDonald’s animals are, therefore, incredibly significant and super helpful to him. So let’s hop into his farm and learn more about those beautiful animals.

1. Cow

As we have mentioned multiple times before, the world’s 8.7 million species are classified in what is known as the taxonomic hierarchy to help scientists and biologists better understand them. There are eight ranks in this hierarchy. The most general of them is the domain, and the most specific one is the species. One of the ranks between the domain and the species is the family.

A family called Bovidae includes all livestock animals. All in all, there are 143 animal species in the Bovidae family. One of these species is cattle. While females are called cows and males are bulls, the word cattle refers to both males and females. 

Humans have domesticated cattle to provide them with food. But way before that, cattle, which originally descended from an ancestor called the aurochs, used to live in the wild. At first, they were native to India. But then they started to spread to every other place in the world.

And with a lot of inbreeding and evolution, we got the cattle we are now familiar with.

Accordingly, it is very rare to find cattle living by themselves in the wild like other animals. They are all domesticated and kept by humans.

Under the cattle, there are more than 1000 named breeds worldwide. A percentage of these breeds have originated in tropical areas in Asia and Africa. Therefore, they are well adapted to hot weather. On the other hand, the rest were native to Europe and northern Asia. So they can survive in much cooler climates.

One thing that is quite distinct about the cattle is their names. As we have mentioned, the word cattle refers to the plural. But if we try to break it down, we will find out that:

  • A single adult male is called a bull.
  • A single adult female is called a cow.
  • A young single female is a heifer.
  • A father bull is a sire.
  • A mother cow is a dam.
  • A mother cow with only one calf is a first-calf heifer or heiferette.
  • Nursing young, whether males or females are calves.
  • Weaning young are weaners.
  • Feeding young are feeders.

Interestingly, such names change from one region to another. So cattle is one of the widely named mammals.

Cow
A Cow in a Farm

Appearance

Each of the 1000 breeds of cattle has a different colour, size, and appearance. Speaking of the colours, it seems like all breeds range between different hues of black, grey, creamy, white, and brown.

Some breeds have patches of different colours on their skin. Others have all their skin of the same colour. Some breeds have their underparts, including their feet and hooves, coloured differently from their bodies. Others are not that colourful. 

Almost all breeds have horns as well as hair. Yet, it is the length of the hair that differes from a breed to another. One Scottish cattle breed called Highland has a beautiful, fluffy, rusty wool coat. Males from some breeds can have manes. And almost all breeds have tail tufts. 

Adult cattle range widely in weight, again depending on their breed. For instance, small breeds weigh between 300 and 500 kg. Large breeds are much, much heavier, with their weights ranging vastly between 600 and 1500 kg.

Breeding

A cow is mature enough to mate and breed between 11 and 15 months of age. A bull, however, takes longer to mature. Until the bull is at least 13 months old, it cannot breed.

The cow stays pregnant for nine months. Then she gives birth to only one calf. At birth, calves usually weigh between 25 and 45 kg, depending on which breed they are. 

Senses

The cattle are characterised by having a good sense of vision. In fact, vision is their most dominant sense and the one the cattle depend on the most to get information about their surroundings.

With the eyes located on each side of the head, the cattle have a broad view, typically of 330°. Such a super wide field is known as a panoramic field. That is much better than the human’s field of vision, which is only limited to 180°.

Interestingly, the cattle can see in many colours with different degrees. For instance, they can see red, yellow, and orange colours much better than green, blue, and violet colours.

And speaking of colours, it has been commonly believed that bulls are especially provoked by the colour red. But that is not true. In the famous Spanish bullfight, the bull does not actually start running, fighting, and kicking because when it sees the red flag but because of the movement of the red flag.

In the same manner, if someone encountered a bull in a field and made a sudden quick movement, the bull would start running after them in a blink of an eye.

Another sense that the cattle enjoy to a reasonable level is taste. They can distinguish between sweet, bitter, salty, and sour tastes thanks to the 20,000 taste buds they have on their tongues. On the other hand, we humans have between 2000 and 4000 taste buds only.

Now moving to hearing. Like the past two senses, cattle have a very good hearing ability. Since these mammals depend on a large set of vocalisations to communicate with one another, they are able to locate sounds at different distances. They can even hear better than horses.

Last but not least, the cattle have a good sense of touch allowed by different receptors on their skin.

2. Cat 

Well, this is an animal that defines cuteness.

The cat, or more precisely, the domestic cat, is a species of small-sized animal that originated in a pre-historic region that now includes modern-day Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

In fact, the family cat includes all types of big and small cats. The cat that Old MacDonald has is a small one. So it is referred to as a domestic cat or a house cat to distinguish it from other predatory big cats that live in the wild.

There are 73 recognised breeds of cats of all kinds, colours, and behaviors that live all over the world.

Like cattle, humans domesticated cats. This is believed to have happened in Asia around 7500 years ago. But here, we need to pause for a minute. All the animals that Old MacDonald keeps on his farms provide him with some benefits. But what benefit does that cat provide? Why did humans domesticate cats thousands of years ago?

Well, if it were up to me, I would say that because cats are cute, fun, and a great source of entertainment. But apparently, that is not enough for some people. It seems like cats were domesticated because they help humans protect their food from rodents, such as mice, and kill them. Well, this makes sense.

Cats are one of those animal species found all over the world, and they have quite a large population. One reason for that is the large litter size. For instance, a female cat can give birth to up to eight kittens at a time. And since cats’ pregnancy only lasts for two months, they can breed up to three times a year.

Domestic cats also have a life expectancy of up to 14 years. All of these factors contribute to enlarging the population of cats.

As of 2021, an estimate of 700 million cats were found worldwide; about 31% of them were owned as pets, and the remaining 69% were stray cats.

Cat
An Adorable Cat

Appearance

Regarding the appearance of cats, it might be a little hard to talk about it, given that there are 73 different breeds of domestic cats. So we will limit their appearance to size and other common body features.

Generally speaking, males are larger than females. Cats weigh 4.5 kg on average. They have a body length of 25 cm at maximum, excluding the tail, which in some breeds measures up to 30 cm. So technically, the cat’s tail is longer than the cat itself. 

Cats are 20 cm tall, from feet to shoulder. Thanks to these long legs, cats are perfect runners. The Egyptian Mau, which is a cat breed that originated in ancient Egypt, is the fastest among all domestic cat breeds.

The Egyptian Mau is characterised by having longer back legs, and a unique kind of skin called flap skin. So when the cat runs, this flap skin stays attached to the body and allows those long back legs to extend farther and therefore cover a longer distance in a single leap. The Egyptian Mau can run at a speed of 48m/h.

Another interesting physical feature of the domestic cat is its claws. The cat is able to extend its claws and make them appear from under the fur. They can also draw them back and hide them. 

The claws are sharp and usually play super essential roles for the cat. It uses them when hunting to defend itself, scratch its enemies, climb, and grab things. These claws are found on most paws. So the cat has ten front claws and eight back claws.

Nine out of the 73 recognised cat breeds have no hair at all. The remaining have hair with different colours, lengths and degrees of density.

Another thing that is related to the cat’s originally predatory instinct is the canine teeth. Cats have four canine teeth, two at the top and two at the bottom. They use them to tear meat and kill prey.

Super abilities

In open areas, one can hear a lion’s roar from a distance of 8 km. A penguin is able to hold its breath for up to 20 minutes underwater. A polar bear can swim nonstop for up to 100 km. A tiger can jump 6 m up in the air. Cats, too, are blessed with super-duper abilities. Here they are. 

Balance

Anyone who has a cat knows their cat loves to sit in high places. They may look in horror at their cat sitting on a rooftop fence, extremely scared the cat might fall. Well, it will not. Cats have a remarkable ability to balance themselves on high or narrow surfaces.

Cats liking to sit in high places is thought to be a protection mechanism as they keep themselves away from dangers or predators. It is also thought that it gives them a wider field of vision to monitor everything going on in their territory.

Twist

This is another super physical ability that cats have. As we have said, cats are great at keeping their balance. But if, for some reason, they happened to fall from a few metres height, they would twist themselves and land rightfully on all fours.

This is known as the cat-righting reflex. Interestingly, this innate ability develops in the cat at the age of four weeks old and is perfect at the age of only two months.

Cats are able to do this reflexive twist if they fall from a height of at least 90 cm. If the height is less than that, they might not have enough time to orient themselves. 

Vision

Cats are also famous for possessing a sharp sense of night vision. That means they can see in the dark. Thanks to their retina and slit-shaped pupils, their eyes are so developed and sensitive to dim light. So with very little light, they can recognise things.

Cats are also great at seeing well at long distances, up to six metres.

In addition, cats have very sensitive, long, sensory whiskers. They help them with near vision and explore their surroundings. When cats approach a solid object, these sensitive whiskers turn outward so cats can measure how far this object is and whether or not they will hit it if they keep walking. Whiskers also help cats know if they fit a particular hole or opening.

Most importantly, whiskers make cats look super cute.

Hearing

In addition to those abilities we mentioned, cats enjoy a sharp sense of hearing. They can even hear better than us and better than dogs and us.

One thing that reinforces such ability is the ears. Each one of them comprises 32 muscles, which allow free movement in different directions to detect and locate the sound. 

These ears also enable cats to hear sounds that the human ear cannot detect, known as ultrasounds. Interestingly, mice produce such sound waves, the thing that makes it easy for cats to locate mice and therefore fulfil their duty at Old MacDonald’s farm as food guards.

Smell

Like vision and hearing, cats have a sharp sense of smell which they use to identify objects as well as people. In fact, cats examine things first by smelling them. If they somehow find it pleasant or at least not disgusting, they will then further their examination and lick it to see how it tastes.

In the same way, cats like to touch objects to stick their body scent to them and mark them as theirs. When it comes to people, they rub their heads against their legs to do the same thing.

Breeding

Female cats are able to mate and start a family at the age of five to 10 months old, while males usually mature at a younger age, typically at seven months, at maximum.

A female cat stays pregnant for about two months; then, she gives birth to four to eight kittens. At birth, kittens are extremely small and fragile. They are blind and cannot walk. But their bodies are covered with hair.

Around 10 days after birth, they open their eyes. Kittens nurse for four to six weeks. After that, their mother starts introducing them to solid food while still nursing them but less frequently. After a maximum of 10 weeks, kittens no longer nurse and eat solid food. 

At 12 weeks old, kittens can be detached from their mother and move to new homes.

Cats have a lifespan of 15 years. The oldest known cat, however, died at the age of 38 in the US.

3. Sheep

Like cattle, sheep are multi-purpose mammals that are domesticated and kept as livestock. They are a great source of meat, wool, and milk from which we make many dairy products.

Because they can adapt to different types of habitats as well as different climates, sheep can pretty much survive everywhere. So they are found on every continent. That said, as of 2019, the largest sheep population by country, estimated to be 187 million sheep, was found in China. Meanwhile, the total global population of sheep at the time was estimated to be 1.176 billion.

There are over 1000 breeds of sheep worldwide. There indeed are apparent differences between them. For instance, the wool colour can be creamy, beige, orange-ish, brown, grey or black. All sheep have horns, but it is the length, colour, and shape of the horn that is different from one breed to another. 

Appearance

Sheep range in size according to the breed. But in general, they all weigh between 45 and 160 kg. They are about 1.2-16 m long and about 90 cm tall at the shoulders. Fully grown sheep have 32 teeth. Interestingly, teeth in young sheep are used to know their age. 

Lambs, the sheep’s offspring, are born with no teeth. But within a week, they start to develop small teeth known as milk teeth. Every year, two of these milk teeth are replaced by large adult teeth. So based on how many adult teeth a lamb has, one can know how old it is.

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A Herd of Sheep

Senses

Thanks to their eyes being on the sides of their faces, sheep enjoy an excellent sense of vision. It provides them with a field of view of about 320°. That is even better than the cattle’s field of vision. The sheep’s large vision allows them to see behind without even turning their head a tiny bit.

In addition, sheep have a very good hearing ability. Their relatively big ears are sensitive to sounds. They also can smell very well.

That said, none of these skills is as super as the sheep’s sense of taste. They have around 1200 taste buds on their tongue, which enable them to recognise and differentiate between different tastes.

And as the sheep mostly prefer sweet and sour plants, those 1200 tongue buds allow the sheep to find their favorite food and consume it while avoiding bitter plants, which they do not like.

Breeding

Female sheep, called ewes, can mate at six to eight months old, while males, called rams, can mate way earlier than that, usually at the age of four to six months. That said, at what age sheep become mature and able to breed can differ from one breed to another.

A female stays pregnant for five months, and then she gives birth to a single lamb or sometimes twins. At birth, lambs are open-eyed and are strong enough to stand up and walk only after an hour.

Lambs nurse until they are three months old. Then, their mother gradually reduces their nursing time and replaces the milk with solid food. At four months old, lambs are no longer nursing and are feeding on plants.

Since farmers usually keep sheep and lambs, farmers can control when a lamb should start feeding. They use the lamb’s weight as an indicator rather than age. For instance, once the lamb weighs 20 kg, it can be weaned. 

Sheep live 10-12 years on average.

4. Duck 

Besides animals, old MacDonald keeps some birds. One of them is the duck.

The duck belongs to the waterbird family, including its relatives, geese and swans. Ducks like the water, whether it is fresh or salty. That is why they are great swimmers. Some breeds of ducks, such as sea ducks, can even dive to a depth of three and up to 20 metres to feed on aquatic plants. 

Ducks originated in China around 3,000 years ago. And from there, they moved to all other continents. And like the rest of the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm, ducks are domesticated. They provide our old farmer with eggs, meat, and feathers. Some people even like to keep ducks as pets. 

There are many breeds of ducks of different feather colours and patterns. However, around 20 or a few more have been domesticated.

Ducks typically eat grass, insects, and fish. 

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A White Duck near Pond

Breeding 

When it comes to birds, breeding is a little different.

It is known that birds lay eggs. Egg-laying is something that females do on their own without a male duck around. However, these eggs will not hatch into ducklings because the female duck did not mate with a male duck. These typically are the eggs we eat.

So what happens is that when a female duck becomes four months old, she is then mature enough to mate. When she mates for the first time, she will lay eggs way later, when she becomes six to seven months old.

After that, the female duck builds a nest in a safe place nearby and starts to lay eggs. Then she sits on the eggs, an activity called incubation, for 30 days to provide them with warmth. After this period, the eggs hatch and beautiful ducklings pop out.

Ducklings are usually very small at birth. The eyes are closed, and they have no feathers at all. So they are completely dependent on their mother for feeding. Since ducks do not nurse, they feed their ducklings solid food right away. By day six, ducklings can open their eyes, and their features start to grow gradually. At eight weeks of age, ducklings become entirely covered with beautiful features.

Fifteen weeks after birth, those ducklings, now ducks, moult and grow new feathers.

Domesticated ducks can live up to 10 years. However, they are usually slaughtered for their meat way earlier than that.

5. Chicken

Another bird that Old MacDonald domesticated is the chicken. Like cattle, the word chicken refers to both males and females. However, a male chicken is called a rooster, while a female is called a hen.

Like the duck, the rooster and the hen are birds, but they cannot fly.

Old MacDonald keeps chickens for their eggs and meat. They are even more popular than ducks, and more significant numbers of them are consumed worldwide on a daily basis.

According to researchers, chickens originated between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago. The humans quickly domesticated them as they were a great source of food. 

There are striking differences between roosters and hens. For instance, roosters have very colourful feathers. Their tails are more pointed than hens’ tails. The rooster’s comb is also larger and bright red, while the hen’s comb is smaller and pinker than red. 

Likewise, roosters have a cockscomb. This is the skin under their beak. It is long and as bright red as their comb. On the other hand, the hen’s cockscomb is way smaller and, again, pink.

One more thing, the rooster is taller and much more in shape than the hen!

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Group of Chicken in a Farm

Breeding

Roosters are mature and can mate when they are four months old. On the other hand, hens must be at least five months old to mate. Like ducks, hens mate first, and then after a period, they start laying eggs in the nests they built for this very specific purpose.

A hen must incubate her eggs for 21 days so they can hatch into chicks. She can lay eggs pretty much most of the year or as long as there is enough daylight. This is an essential factor in the egg-laying process.

During winter, hens, as well as many other birds, do not lay eggs due to the lack of light.

Newborn chicks are so tiny and have very little hair. As they feed, they start growing their creamy, soft, fluffy feathers. After a period of time, they moult and grow new feathers.

Chickens typically live between three and seven years; however, they are usually slaughtered before that.

6. Horse

The horse is the biggest domesticated animal on Old MacDonald’s farm. It is such an important member. Even though it does not produce material that Old MacDonald can use as food, it helps him by pulling carriages and ploughs to spread animal droppings. These are perfect for fertilising the land so plants can grow.

Old MacDonald also rides his horse to go from one place to another. He uses it to move the sheep and cattle back to their sleeping spaces after they have grazed all day on the farm.

In addition, the horse is a very distinct animal. It descended from a mammal ancestor that existed on Earth around 55 million years ago. But it looked somewhat different from the horse we know now.

Over the years, this ancestor went through many, many different biological changes to adapt to the environment, which has been changing since the Earth formed. These changes piled up and produced this big, beautiful, strong animal we called the horse.

The horse used to be a wild animal. That means it lived in the wild with no constraints, just like other animals such as the elephant, the monkey, and the lion, which still live in the wild.

But then, about 4000 BC, humans started to domesticate the horse and use its strength. In that way, Old MacDonald has got a horse on his farm.

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Horse is Eating in a Meadow

In total, more than 300 breeds of horses are currently living on Earth. Those breeds are divided into three different types according to their nature and physical characteristics: 

(1) Cold-blooded horses

These horses have large bones and heavy bodies. They are perfect for farm work. So they are called draft horses. Some cold-blooded draft horse breeds include Shire horses, Percheron horses, and Belgian horses.

(2) Hot-blooded horses

Such horses are muscular and less heavy than cold-blooded horses. They are known for being intelligent, fast, and super energetic. They can also adapt to the environment very quickly. Thanks to their high energy, hot-blooded horses are used for racing. Arabian horses and Thoroughbred horses are the most famous racing horse breeds.

(3) Warm-blooded horses

Yes, you have guessed it!

Warm-blooded horses are the intersection between the two horse types we mentioned earlier. In other words, a warm blooded-horse is produced by breeding a cold-blooded male horse with a hot-blooded female one. This is called crossbreeding or crossing, for short.

As a result, warm-blooded horses share characteristics with the two other horse types. For instance, they are used for riding either as a sport or a leisure activity. They can also be used for farming. Warm-blooded horse breeds include the Irish horse, the Dutch Warm-blooded horse, and the Trakehner horse.

Domestic horses usually live between 25 and 30 years. The longest-living horse, called Sugar Puff, died at the age of 56 back in 2007. That said, the oldest horse was believed to have lived for 62 years during the 19th century. Yet, there is not any documented record of that.

Now let’s move on and learn some more specific information about the horse.

But first…

We need to clarify the difference between horses and ponies. To put it simply, ponies are just like horses but smaller. Besides both possessing some different behaviors, one way to tell ponies and horses apart is by size. The pony is usually less than 1.3 cm tall at the withers, while horses stand for an average of 163 cm.

Now back to horses.

Just like the male and female cattle have different names, horses, too, are named differently based on their age. For instance:

  1. A baby horse that is not older than a year, whether it is male or female, is called a foal. When it grows a little older, around two or three years old, it becomes a yearling.
  1. A male horse between three and four years old is called a colt.
  1. A female of the same age is a filly.
  1. A four-year-old (and above) male is called either a stallion or a gelding.
  1. A female at the age of four and above is a mare.

Appearance

As we have mentioned, there are more than 300 breeds of horses worldwide. And these look extremely different from one another. But in general, horses have a height range between 142 to 183 cm and weigh between 380 kg and 1000 kg.

On rare occasions, some horse breeds may have individuals exceeding those ranges. For instance, a record-holding individual was a 19th-century horse that weighed over 1,500 kg and was as tall as 219 cm. That horse was a cold-blooded Shire horse.

On the other hand, the smallest horse that had ever lived on Earth was, in fact, a dwarf horse. She stood only 43 cm high and was as light-weighed as 26 kg.

Speaking of looks, horses are quite attractive. Their entire bodies are covered with a fine hair coat that comes in different colours based on the breed. But basically, horses can be black or brown. Yet, genes cause these colours to have different hues. Therefore, a horse can be grey, bay, dun, or chestnut. The last two are reddish-brown colours.

Usually, horses have the same colour all over their bodies except for some white markings on the face and legs. However, some bay horses are born with many white spots that are caused by different genes, just like those of a dairy cow. One example of those horses with white spots is the pinto horse.

Other than brown, grey, and black, horses can be white. White horses are born with pink skin under their white hair coat. But they are more or less rare. In contrast, there are horses that ‘look’ white. Those are usually grey horses but are either middle-aged or old.

It seems like many things about horses are ‘long’. For instance, they have a prolonged head. On that head, there is a pair of eyes on each side, two relatively small ears, and a mane that goes over the forehead and runs through the back of the neck. Horse tails are usually the same colour as the manes. 

Most horses also have white markings that extend from the forehead down to the nose.

Adult horses have 24 sharp teeth that work perfectly in chewing grass, the horse’s primary food. Some horses may develop more teeth than that. One can see how old a horse is just by examining its teeth. The more worn out the teeth look, the older the horse is. And vice versa.

Both cattle and sheep are double-toed. They have two toes in their hooves. But the horse is single-hoofed; it only has one toe. Connected to those single toes are the horse’s long, strong, slender legs. With those legs, horses can balance themselves perfectly and move at different speeds that get progressively high. For instance, horses can:

  • walk at the rate of 6.4 km/h, on average
  • jog at the rate of 16 km/h, on average

A horse can also increase its movement speed to a maximum of 27 km/h. This is called canter movement. A horse running at the speed of 40 to 48 km/h is galloping. That said, the fastest-ever horse was reported to run at 88.5 km/h. That is faster than both the lion and the jaguar and way faster than the tiger.

Breeding

When it comes to domesticated animals, which humans use for their benefit, mating and breeding are usually controlled.

Usually, horses are mature enough to mate and start a family at the age of 18 months. However, farmers, horse owners, and breeders often prefer to wait until the horse is at least three years old to ensure it is fully mature and healthy.

A male horse about to mate is called a stallion, and a female is called a mare. Stallions and mares are usually five years old and above. Mating happens from mid-spring to early autumn. That is from April to October.

A female horse stays pregnant for 345 days on average. Pregnancy can be two weeks shorter or longer than that, based on the horse breed.

If mating happens in the spring, the female will give birth the spring after, usually to a single baby horse, a foal. Some females might have twins; yet, that is pretty rare.

Unlike other animals, foals are somewhat developed at birth. For instance, they can stand up and even run only within two hours of birth. Foals nurse for at least four months then they are gradually introduced to solid food for two months. At the age of six months, they are almost fully dependent on solid food.

Feeding

In zoology, animals that eat plants only are called herbivores. And horses are herbivores.

The horse’s diet largely consists of grass and is combined with other plant materials such as haylage, vegetables, and fruits. Carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, and lettuce are a few vegetables that horses enjoy a lot.

Unlike cattle and sheep, which have four stomachs, horses have only one and are somewhat small. Despite that, this small stomach can comprise large amounts of food.

Because they have such big bodies, horses need considerable amounts of plants to maintain their health and physical strength. For instance, an adult horse needs an average of nine kg of food and 42 litres of water on a daily basis.

But those big bodies do not make horses predators. In fact, they are prey. Horses may be attacked by predators such as wolves, coyotes—these are animals that look so much like wolves but are not wolves—bears, alligators, and mountain lions—also known as cougars. Wild pigs, called boars, can also attack horses.

But since most of the global horse population is domesticated, horses are less likely to encounter those predators since they do not live in the wild. Domesticating horses usually provides them with high protection against such violent attacks. 

But one may still wonder, do horses attack other animals or, say,s? After all, they are much larger than many species, including us and may all of a sudden become aggressive. 

Well, this rarely happens. Horses do not attack other animals or humans. As a matter of fact, their first reaction to any attack is to run away. But it is not just the horses’ speed that protects them from attacks. Senses also play a critical role in their survival.

More Facts about Horses

Senses

In addition to all the excellent horse aspects we have demonstrated so far, they do possess a whole set of magnificently sharp senses. For instance:

(1) Vision

For they have their eyes on both sides of their heads, just like cattle, horses enjoy a field view of 350°! This makes them able to see everything almost in all directions of their surroundings without even having to move their heads.

Horse eyes are also very large, well, the largest eyes among all land mammals. Large eyes provide a super sense of day vision.

And like cats, horses can see at night very well.

(2) Smell and taste

Horses can smell very well, much better than us. Yet, they are not as good as dogs. The structure of the horse’s nose allows it to distinguish between different smells. This eventually allows the horse to recognise the various objects, locate where the odours are coming from, identify its food, and even know if the plant it is about to eat is good or toxic or if the haylage is plain or has medicine. In the same way, the horse can know whether the water is clean or dirty.

With this highly developed sense of smell, horses can recognise other horses too. They can tell whether they are males or females, family or strangers. 

The horse’s sense of smell is supported by an excellent sense of taste thanks to its super-developed tongue. While humans have eight muscles in their tongues, horses have 12! In addition, horses have 25,000 taste buds on their tongues compared to a maximum of 10,000 in humans.

So besides the ability to identify food by their noses, horses use their tongues to pick their favourite food, which can be as small as grains, from a large container full of food.

(3) Hearing

Like their sense of vision, horses can hear pretty well and receive sounds coming from all directions.

Each external ear, called the pinna, has ten muscles which rotate the ear up to 180°. That means both ears cover a range of 360°, providing the horse with valuable information about the surroundings.

That said, horses can become stressed when subjected to noise or sounds above 21 decibels—a decibel is the standard unit used to measure how loud a sound is. 

(4) Touch

Touch is another super sense that horses enjoy.

Horses can pretty much sense incredibly fine touches all over their bodies, with their eyes, ears, and noses being the most sensitive areas. If you just touch a horse with your fingertip for a microsecond, it will still feel it.

Sleep

When we think of sleep, we often picture a lying position. And this is how the majority of creatures sleep anyway. This position has something to do with the muscles. When animals sleep, their muscles usually get relaxed and loosened. So they become unable to support regular standing positions.

However, in some animals, muscles function differently, enabling sort of weird sleeping positions. For example, dolphins sleep while swimming vertically next to one another. Sea otters sleep floating on their backs on the water’s surface. Bats sleep hung upside down.

Likewise, horses sleep in a standing position.

In fact, horses can sleep while standing up or lying down. Their bodies have what is called a ‘sleep apparatus’. This is a combination of tendons, muscles, and ligaments that make the leg muscles tight instead of loosened during sleep. This enables the horse to enter the state of light sleep without falling off while standing up.

Regardless of that, light sleep is not deep sleep. It means the horse is not awake but still not totally asleep. So light sleep does not provide the necessary comfort the animal needs. A horse can never sleep deeply unless it lies down. And since it spends more time standing than lying, the horse gets more light sleep per day than deep sleep.

In addition, horses also never sleep continuously. They do not sleep for a few hours straight, not even for one solid hour. Instead, they sleep for short but repeated intervals throughout the day, which sum up to around three hours per day. 

Another reason why horses get more light sleep intervals is the necessity for them to stay attentive to what happens around them. This vigilance is inevitable. It is even supported by their sharp senses, whose primary function is to protect the animal against any approaching danger.

In that respect, horses manage to function on little deep sleep. However, if the horse is never allowed to lie down to get some deep sleep for up to three days, its health and total body energy will deteriorate, making the horse generally less able to do its farm work. Some horses may even collapse.

7. Donkey

It seems like cattle, sheep, and the horse are not the only hoofed animals that Old Macdonald has on his farm. Another member of the family is the donkey.

As a matter of fact, the donkey belongs to the same family as the horse. Both of them descended from the same ancestor around four million years ago. Then, they separated and evolved into what we know them to be now.

Thousands of years ago, donkeys used to live freely in the wild, just like horses. Then humans started domesticating and using them for work, especially farm work. Donkeys are even used to doing more things than horses, which earned them the nickname ‘the beasts of burden’.

Donkey domestication first started in Africa and later spread to the rest of the world.

There are more than 30 breeds of donkeys in the world. Members of all donkey breeds share many similarities, yet, they are different in some physical aspects, such as size, colour, and pregnancy periods.

That said, there are around 40 million donkeys of those 30 breeds living worldwide. Since they are working animals, large numbers of them are found in developing countries that are still somehow dependent on agriculture as one of the primary sources of income. Donkeys that live in such countries and are subject to a lot of work usually live a maximum of 15 years.

On the other hand, donkeys in more developed countries enjoy a longer lifespan, ranging between 30 and up to 50 years.

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest reported donkey that has ever lived on Earth was named Suzy from the USA. She died back in 2002 at the age of 54. 

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Donkeys by The Fence of Paddock Against Backdrop of Sunset

Appearance 

Since they are relatives, donkeys look so much like horses, yet smaller, and they have way longer ears than horses’.

The donkey’s body is covered with a fine hair coat. The coat colours range between light grey, grey, and black. It can also be brown in different hues. Most donkeys have spot colouring. That means some areas of their bodies, usually the stomach, the muzzle, and the underparts, are white. The area around the donkey’s eyes can also be white.

Another difference that is between the donkey and the horse is the mane. While the horse has a relatively long, thick mane, that of a donkey is quite short and does not run on its forehead.

As compared to those of the horse, the donkey has way longer ears. These super large ears enable the donkey to hear another fellow donkey from a distance as far as 97 km in open areas such as the desert.

The donkey also has a prolonged head, with the eyes being on each side of it. The tail is not very long and has a tuft at the end of it. Donkeys have strong teeth that can chew hay and straw.

Now moving on to the size. Donkeys of different breeds are different in size. But in general, they are all between 90 and 150 cm tall and have a weight range of 80 to 480 kg.

Some breeds, however, can be a little smaller or larger than that. For instance, the Sicilian donkeys—nicknamed mini donkeys—grow to be only 61 cm tall at the withers and have a maximum weight of 181 kg. So technically, the adult Silician looks like a baby donkey from another breed.

Sicilian donkeys are commonly found in North Africa.

On the other hand, the largest donkey breed is the American Mammoth Jackstock. This donkey stands for an average of 142 cm at the withers and weighs around 544 kg.

Speaking of extreme donkey measurements, the Guinness World Records does have two categories for the tallest and shortest living donkeys. Romulus, which is an American Mammoth Jackstock for sure, is the world’s tallest donkey. At 18 years old, he was 173 cm tall and weighed 590 kg, which is also a donkey’s weight record.

Meanwhile, KneeHi is the world’s shortest donkey, standing only 64.2 cm from hooves to withers. He was added to the Guinness World Records back in 2011 when he was just five years old.

Breeding

A male donkey is called a jack. A female is a jennet or a jenny, and a baby or a juvenile donkey is a foal.

So jacks and jennets are mature and can mate when they turn one. However, owners and breeders do not usually breed them until they become at least 2.5 years old. This is to ensure they are fully mature and physically healthy.

A jennet’s pregnancy lasts for 11 to 14 months, based on the breed. Then, she usually gives birth to a single foal. On rare occasions, twins are born. Like horse foals, donkey foals are able to stand up and walk within an hour of their birth.

Donkey foals usually nurse for five or six months then their mothers gradually reduce their nursing time and start introducing them to solid food. This is called weaning.

As we have mentioned earlier in the horse section, cold-blooded horses can be crossbred with hot-blooded horses to produce warm-blooded horses. Well, something similar to that happens with donkeys.

Since donkeys and horses are from the same family, breeders can interbreed them. That means they mate a female donkey, a jenny, with a male horse. The result of such a process is called a hinny. A hinny looks more like a donkey than a horse.

On the other hand, when a male donkey, a jack, breeds with a female horse, a mare, their offspring is called a mule. A mule’s body is typically closer to that of a horse. Yet, its head and especially its eyes are more donkey-like.

Having said that, both hinnies and mules are not able to breed and have their own offspring. And speaking of that, the American Mammoth Jackstock, the largest donkey breed we mentioned earlier, is actually used to produce ‘quality’ mules since the donkey itself is quite large and strong.

Likewise, zebras are from the same family as donkeys and horses. Despite looking similar to donkeys, zebras are not donkeys. However, both animals can interbreed. When a male donkey mates with a female zebra, they produce a zonkey or a zebroid.

A zonkey looks more like a donkey and might even have the same common grey donkey colour. But it also has the famous zebra black stripes on its four legs rather than the rest of its body.

Skills and Behaviors

Donkeys are famous for having very strong memories, like elephants. They are able to remember the areas they live in and the places they go to for many years, up to 25. Donkeys can even remember their old friends, whether they are humans or fellow donkeys, even though they have not seen them for a pretty long time.

Besides the good memory, donkeys are known to be very kind creatures. They are friendly, intelligent, and super, super patient. Though they might be a little stubborn, too, there is a reason for that.

Like horses, donkeys are prey. But donkeys are more cautious and highly attentive to dangers than horses. So, if they see an action as dangerous, they will not do it, a reaction that is interpreted as stubbornness.

For instance, if a human tries to force a donkey to take a different route that happens to be narrow, dirty, or somewhat frightening to the donkey, the donkey will not obey the human. Unfortunately, the human will probably think their donkey is disobedient while it is, in fact, being cautious.

In animals, such vigilant behaviours are known as self-preservation. Self-preservation helps animals protect themselves and stay alive.

In that respect, donkeys will choose to stay safe where they are rather than do something that they perceive as dangerous. If humans would like to train their donkeys, they have to earn their trust first. This is something that requires a lot of time and patience for sure, but it will definitely pay off later on.

Feeding 

Like horses, donkeys are herbivores; they eat plants only. However, not just any plants are suitable for donkeys. As they are quite strong, donkeys require a lot of energy to sustain their strength and be able to do all the work they are subjected to. This makes food rich in fibre the most important for them.

Food high in fibre usually takes longer to digest than protein and carbohydrates. That means the donkey will stay feeling full for a long time. This way, the donkey can work for long hours without feeling very fatigued. 

Speaking more specifically, this high level of fibre is found in oat straw, seed hay, grass, shrubs, and some fruit such as apples, bananas, and pears. Fruit is usually served as a treat. Donkeys also eat carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash.

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Donkeys Eating Grass on a Grass Field

8. Dog 

Old MacDonald has a dog on his farm. 

Like the cat, another animal that descended from a predatory ancestor is the dog. But dogs are also domesticated. They were trained for thousands of years to live with humans and help them in different ways.

But how did dogs originate?

Well, from an ancient wolf; a thousand-times great grandpa wolf that is now extinct, to be precise. Then, some time in history, a species of that descent branched, moved to other places, experienced different environmental conditions, evolved, and became the dogs we are familiar with now. On the other hand, the other species remained wolves. 

This separation from the wolves is believed to have happened between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago, somewhere in Europe and Asia.

Many (many) years went by and humans started domesticating dogs. Interestingly, all the animals we mentioned so far were primarily domesticated to help humans with farming and provide them with food. But with dogs, things are different. Domesticating dogs happened way before humans invented agriculture.

Back in the day, when humans were still relying on hunting animals and fishing to survive, they came across dogs, which were still pure predators. Some people say dogs stayed closer to humans because the latter shared food, primarily meat, with them. And as time went by, they became companions.

After domestication, dogs have become of a certain value to humans., for example, protection. Such dogs are called herding dogs, shepherd dogs, or working dogs. They are used by farmers to look out for any danger that might approach the sheep. In that way, the dog on Old MacDonald’s farm is a herding dog.

Other than that, dogs are trained to pull loads and help the police catch criminals thanks to their incredible sense of smell. They are also used to help disabled people like the blind and act as entertainment companions to help people cheer up, especially if they are going through some rough times. 

All in all, there are 450 named breeds of dog that share some similarities but have many differences related to the size, shape, fur colour, traits, and behaviours. No other animal has as many variable breeds as the dog.

If you are familiar with the animated film ‘The Secret Life of Pets’, you may recall that there were many different dogs in it. Max, the main character, was a Jack Russell Terrier dog. His new flat mate, the one he did not love at first and was called Duke, was another dog breed called Newfoundland Mix. Gidget was a White Pomeranian. Buddy was a Dachshund. Old Pops was a Basset Hound, and Mel was a Pug dog.

Although all these dog breeds lived together in New York in the film, they actually originated in many different countries. For instance, Pops is an English dog, while Mel is from China.

For the sake of this already-long journey on Old MacDonald farm, we will just mention the largest and smallest dog breeds before we move on to discuss general dog information.

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A Beagle Dog Sitting on a White Floor

St Bernard

The largest dog breed is St Bernard or Saint, for short (Plural: Saints). It is a working dog that is found in the Western Alps mountains in both Italy and Switzerland. It is not exactly known when this dog breed was introduced to humans. But St. Bernard appeared in some old records, such as paintings and drawings that date back to the late 17th century. That means some people were already using that dog before that.

Anyways, the dog was named St Bernard after a traveler hostel called the Great St Bernard Hospice, which is located on a road that connects Switzerland to Italy. The hospice itself was named after an Italian monk called Bernard of Menthon, who originally built it. 

Nowadays, it is widely believed that St Bernard, the dog, originated in ancient Greece. 

St Bernard was bred and used by the hospice as a rescue dog. Rescue dogs are trained to look for and save missing people in the mountains. As time went by, more and more people knew about and bred St. Bernard. Eventually, the dog grew in size way more than its original, 17th-century grandpa.

And speaking of size, St Bernard is as tall as 70 to 90 cm and weighs 73 kg on average. So it is considered a giant breed. St Bernard can have either a longhair coat or a shorthair coat. Both coats are golden brown and white colours. The back and hindlimbs are usually brown, while the shoulders, upper back, underparts, and front legs are white.

St Bernard has long droopy cute ears, kind brown eyes, and a distinct brown eye mask.

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St. Bernard Dog Lying on Green Grass

Chihuahua 

On the flip side, the smallest dog breed is called the Chihuahua. Besides how funny the same sounds, this dog does not look like it had descended from a wolf ancestor at all. Otherwise, it must have gone through a lot of evolution over millions of years.

The Chihuahua is a Mexican dog that is named after the largest state in Mexico, the city it originated from. Unlike the working dog, St Bernard, the Chihuahua is a companion dog, a pet. So people usually have a Chihuahua for fun and good company. They may also keep it as a show dog.

Dog shows are events in which dogs of a certain breed compete over how well they align with the standard ideals for their breeds. Something like the Miss World pageant! So a Chihuahua is always chosen to participate in such events.

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Chihuahua Dog Sitting on The Lawn

The Chihuahua looks really cute and has many different types that are all small as well. All those types have many other things in common. For instance, they have large round eyes. Their ears are long and round. Their colours range between beige, white, pale brown, and black. Those Chihuahua types can either have short hair, which also means they have no hair at all or long hair. 

Sizewise, the Chihuahua, as mentioned, is incredibly small. All types range between 15 and 23 cm tall and weigh between 1.8 and 2.7 kg. Some individuals, however, may outgrow that. They can reach 38 cm tall and weigh 3 kg. These are the standard measurements for show dogs. On the other hand, the Chihuahuas that are kept as pets may weigh more than that, up to 4.5 kg.

Breeding

Now back to dogs as a general topic.

Dogs of all breeds, both males and females, are mature and able to breed at the age of six months to one year old. However, most breeders will not breed their dogs until they are three years old, especially if the dog breed is large.

A female stays pregnant for 58 to 68 days, which is a little more than two months. Then, she gives birth to six puppies on average. Some dog breeds may have 10 puppies at a time.

Dogs, in general, live between seven and 20 years, depending on the breed. As of October 2022, the oldest reported dog was a female Toy Fox Terrier dog named Pebbles that lived up until she turned. 

Senses

Dogs are known to have super senses. They allowed them, along with a lot of consistent training, to be used both in the police and military. No wonder, are they not of wolf descent?

So, let’s explore those super senses one by one.

Smell

No one can ever mention dogs without speaking about their excellent sense of smell. In fact, the smell is the dog’s most prominent and most important sense ever. 

First, dogs are blessed with a highly developed smell sensory system that dominates the entire dog brain and is called the olfactory cortex. This olfactory cortex provides the dog with a huge amount of information about its surroundings.

The dog’s olfactory system consists of tiny receptors that are able to detect and identify the different smells in the air. The more receptors there are, the better the sense of smell is.

For us humans, we have about 10 million olfactory receptors. Dogs have much more than that, around 125 million to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, depending on the breed. This means that even dogs with the weakest sense of smell can smell much, much better than us.

Dogs can also move their noses more freely than we do. This is an action that allows them to determine the direction of the smell accurately. Since the sense of smell is the dog’s primary means of learning about the environment, it is always active. That is why dogs sniff all the time.

Thanks to this super sense, which I highly consider a superpower, dogs are recruited as police personnel to help police officers do their duties. Their excellent sense of smell enables them to locate drugs even if they are buried underground. In addition, dogs can detect if there is any explosive material around and find evidence as well as missing people.

Dogs enrolled in the Police Force are meticulously chosen. They must pass some tests before they start training which sharpens their senses even more. Some dog breeds used by the Police are German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and Bloodhounds.

All of these dog breeds are unique. Take German Shepherds, for example. They are known to be very smart, confident, and loyal. They learn so fast, train well, and obey their leaders. And they can also adapt easily to changes and are quite serene.

Vision

Besides the smell, dogs enjoy a sharp sense of vision.

They can detect moving objects and are able to recognise them from long distances, up to 900 m. Dogs are also very attentive to any change in the movement of that object, and they can do this better than humans.

The dogs’ eyes enable them to see well in dim light and in the dark, and again, better than humans. Due to the shape and structure of their heads and muzzles, some dog breeds have a field vision of 270°.

That said, if the object is still, dogs may need to come a little closer to identify it. So if that stationary object is more than 500 m away, they will not be able to see it very clearly.

Hearing

The third super sense dogs have is hearing.

Hearing is so sensitive that dogs can hear very low sounds, sounds that we, humans, cannot detect. Like cats, dogs have a lot of muscles in their ears, which reinforces this incredible hearing ability.

Around 18 muscles (or more, in some breeds) in each ear allow free movement in many directions. Such ear movement serves perfectly for locating where a sound is coming from with a high level of accuracy. 

Touch 

We tend to bring out the skin when we think of the sense of touch.

For us, sin is the basic and only organ by which we feel different sensations, from hot and cold, to pressure and pain. For dogs, this is quite true too. Dogs can feel touch through their skin as well as other sensations. However, their bodies are packed with another organ that enables a more advanced sense of touch: whiskers.

Dogs have whiskers above their eyes and on each side of their muzzles, as well as the chin. Whiskers are not just regular hairs. They are very sensitive organs. First off, they are deeply rooted in the skin. They incorporate more touch receptors that make each hair very sensitive to any subtle touch. They can feel the movement of the air and provide the dog with a lot of information about its close environment.

Besides their good night vision, dogs can also learn more about objects in the dark once their whiskers touch them.

Conclusion

And so we come to the end of today’s long journey.

In this article, we discussed some domesticated animals that farmers, like Old MacDonald, usually keep at their farms as livestock to provide them with food resources such as meat, milk, and eggs, as well as other valuable things like wool. 

At first, we discussed cattle, which is a plural word that refers to both cows and bulls. There are many, many cattle breeds scattered all over the world. And they are all different in colour, size, and some other characteristics.

Then, we moved to the cat, which, while being a cute pet, is generally used to keep rodents away thanks to its extremely sharp hearing ability enabled by its highly sensitive, muscular ears.

After that came the sheep. These are medium-sized livestock that provide Old MacDonald with milk and wool. There are over 1000 breeds of sheep worldwide, and they are fairly found in every country, with a relatively large section of the population found in China.

Besides those animals, Old MacDonald’s keeps two types of poultry on his farm: ducks and chicken. Both provide him with eggs, meat, and feathers which Old MacDonald can use to make different crafts.

On the farm, a horse and a donkey are also found. Both animals are relatives, and both are used for farm work. While horses are commonly used to pull carriages and ploughs, donkeys often carry things from one place to another.

Last but not least, we discussed the dog. While being a cute, friendly pet, the dog is found on Old MacDonald’s farm to help protect the other animals. Because it has an intense sense of smell, the dog can detect all different kinds of smells, especially unfamiliar ones.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure on the Old MacDonald’s farm as much as we loved writing about it. Tell us in the comments which animal you liked the most and whether or not you keep animals as pets or livestock.

If you enjoyed learning about this facinating animal why not check out more fantastic facts about other animals: Koalas, Land Animals, Sharks, Raccoons, Moon and Sun Bears, Rats, Chickens, Cats, Pandas, Monkeys and Whales.

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